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Birdshot and backlashes

The unending continuation of the seasons is an absorbing mystery. How did everything get so arranged that there is fall, winter, spring and summer? How does it all fit together so precisely? How does each piece know to play its part?The pond by the side of the road, which we pass every day, had a pair of mallards on it as soon as there was open water. Then, as the season moved into spring, they were gone. Well, the drake was gone. The hen was there but hidden away in last year’s marsh grass. Twice in early May she was visible so we knew she had to be hanging around, nesting probably.Then, the last week of May, she appeared with four tiny, brown ducklings. Why four? Who knows? Usually there are nine or so, but her brood was just four. Maybe a mink or an otter picked off the rest. In any event, mama mallard and the chicks exhibited all the signs of fright. They skittered across the surface of the pond, dodged behind clumps of grass and vanished. But the next day or so, they were out on the water again.There are an infinite number of hazards which could beset the hen and her foursome, from four-legged critters stalking along the shore to birds of prey circling overhead. For some prey species it is probably not a whole lot of fun trying to grow up in the wild. But enough of them seem to make it, perpetuating each one. Once the little web-footed tikes get to where they can fly, they will probably make it through adulthood to mate and continue the cycle. It is just that getting from the egg to full flight is full of danger.We will report on their progress.COLOR IN THE WOODSWith warm weather, butterflies have emerged to add brilliant splashes of yellow, black, red, orange and blue to the landscape. These delicate, colorful insects are ever a source of wonder as they glide through the forest and over the meadows.Last week there were a number of large, yellow-and-black tiger swallowtail butterflies along the Fernberg Road. We stopped for a moment to admire one which was busy with something on the road shoulder. As we got near enough for a good look, it turned out this gorgeous butterfly was busy having lunch…on a pile of bear poop. Right there I lost a lot of respect for tiger swallowtails.As soon as there are a lot of insects outdoors, the dragonflies show up. These are critters which are aptly named. Dragonflies are predators in the insect world, catching and eating other bugs. They are excellent fliers, cruising clearings and lake shores with mayhem in mind. Until a couple years ago, we never saw one actually make a kill. However, one still day, walking down the trail to Ensign Lake, there was this sound of something crunching. Peering down, we made out the form of a large dragonfly on the ground, bent over something. Approaching closer and kneeling down, it became quickly apparent that the big dragon fly was lunching on the head of a smaller damsel fly and it was the crunch, crunch of its jaws that was making the sound.When we were little kids, we were told to look out for dragonflies because they were Devil’s Darning Needles and would sew your mouth shut. It is a good thing they don’t do that because they are sure mean bugs.

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